In the state of Illinois, Rockford is second only to Chicago in the number of homeless students in the city. One local organization believes that number is far too high and decided to do something.
Just Breathe 815 started in May and in just a few months has already made an impact.
It was started by Rockford resident Kevin Ware after a conversation with his daughter. Ware said, "Once God puts something in your heart you just go and do it!"
Like his daughter, he is trying to provide hope to homeless teens in the area.
"Rockford is the second in the state of Illinois for homeless students," said Ware. "Chicago is number 1, Rockford is number 2 and we gotta do better than that."
It's the inspiration behind Just Breathe 815. In Winnebago and Boone Counties there is 2,500 homeless students. Ware and Just Breathe 815 is providing clothing to teens in need as well as resources for jobs, food, and shoes.
Ware said, "You don't want to go to school with holes in your shoes, you want to feel valued and treasured."
As kids start to go back to school, they are providing that value to students.
Just Breathe 815 President, Gaelle Tokoto said, "It's going to be one less thing to worry about so they can focus on their school work and not have another thing to have be in the back of their mind distracting them from their school work."
Since Just Breathe 815 started its mission in May, they have set up collection boxes across the area asking for clothing donations. In that short time, they have been blown away by the public's generosity helping fuel their ministry.
It's that type of support that is the fuel behind Ware's mission. "If you want to go fast in life go alone. But if you want to go far in life, go together," Ware said. "That's all we want to do is we want to, go together with the homeless teens and young adults in need one life at a time."
Just Breathe 815 has partnered with several businesses to be clothing drop-off sites.
You can make donations at the following locations:
- Salamone's Italian Restaurant & Bar, Rockford Siding & Windows
- 15th and Chris Burgers & Ice Cream
- Selah Salon and Spa, B&H Office Furniture.
Just Breathe 815 volunteers wash the clothes and then distribute them once a month at Second Congregation UCC/First Presbyterian Church at 318 N. Church St. to teens in need. The next distribution date is August 19. If you'd like to donate clothing or get your business involved in the effort, contact Just Breathe 815 at firstname.lastname@example.org.